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Political Scientist Career

Career Description

Political Scientists study the origin,  development, and operation of political systems. Research a wide range of subjects, such as relations between the United States and foreign countries,  the beliefs and institutions of foreign nations, or the politics of small towns or a major metropolis.

Common Work Tasks

  • Study topics, such as public opinion, political decision making, and ideology
  • Analyze the structure and operation of governments, as well as various political entities
  • Conduct public opinion surveys, analyze election results, or analyze public documents
  • Conduct research on a wide range of subjects,  such as relations between the United States and other countries, the institutions and political life of nations, the politics of small towns or major metropolises, and the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Conduct opinion research to determine public attitudes on various issues
  • Help political or business leaders to measure public support for their electoral prospects or social policies
  • Interview public officials
  • Consult with economists, statisticians, and research analysts

Other Job Titles

Political Scientists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Pollsters
  • Public Opinion Analysts
  • Survey Researchers
  • Social Scientists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Graduates with master’s degrees in applied specialties usually are qualified for positions outside of colleges and universities, although requirements vary by field. A Ph.D. degree may be required for higher-level positions. Bachelor’s degree holders have limited opportunities and do not qualify for most of the occupations discussed above. A bachelor’s degree does, however, provide a suitable background for many different kinds of entry-level jobs in related occupations, such as research assistant, writer, management trainee, or market analyst.

Training in statistics and mathematics is essential for many political scientists, and those in other fields increasingly use mathematical and quantitative research methods. The ability to use computers for research purposes is mandatory in most disciplines. Political scientists also must keep up-to date on the latest technological advances that affect their discipline and research.

Political scientists need excellent written and oral communication skills to report research findings and to collaborate on research. Successful political scientists also need intellectual curiosity and creativity because they constantly seek new information about people, things, and ideas. The ability to think logically and methodically is also essential to analyze complicated issues, such as the relative merits of various forms of government.  Objectivity, an open mind, and systematic work habits are important in all kinds of political research.


The median annual salary for a Political Scientist is $91,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $142,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $38,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of political scientists are:

  • Federal Executive Branch- $102,530
  • Scientific Research and Development Services- $84,790
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools- $53,990
  • Local Government - $74,220
  • State Government - $55,300

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  5%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 300
  • Employment 2006 : 4,700
  • Employment 2016:  4,900

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